gsthr logo
Quick links to detailed datasheets for Kenya at

Smoking in Kenya

There has been a downwards trend in current smoking prevalence in the general population in Kenya. Smoking prevalence was 15% in 2000 and declined to 10% in 2015, with a further drop to 8% projected by 2025. For men the prevalence decreased from 28% in 2000 to 20% in 2015, with a further decrease to 16% projected by 2025. For women a low prevalence of 2.4% in 2000 dropped to 1% in 2015, and is projected to decrease further still to around 0.7% by 2025. The WHO published prevalence trend estimates in tobacco smoking, as shown here, in their 2018 2nd edition report, which show slightly different smoking prevalence to the WHO country profiles. Data for the estimates are not age standardised, and were obtained from WHO databases. The trend lines are projections, not predictions, of future attainment. A projection indicates a likely endpoint if the country maintains its tobacco control efforts at the same level that it has implemented them to date. Therefore the impact of recent interventions could alter the expected endpoint shown in the projection. While the methods of estimation used in the first and second editions of the WHO report are the same, the volume of data available for the second edition is larger i.e. 200 more national surveys. The results presented are therefore more robust.

Read articles from Kenya

March 05, 2024 by

Don’t block escape route for smokers, say activists

Activists caution that the Kenyan Government's ban on vapes and nicotine pouches could worsen smoking-related harm. The Campaign for Safer Alternatives urges evidence-based policies, highlighting the reduced health risks of these products compared to cigarettes. Encouraging safer alternatives, like in the UK and Sweden, may be more effective in reducing smoking-related deaths. The group stresses the importance of regulating, not banning, these products to aid smokers in quitting and save lives.

February 22, 2024 by

Health ministry begins process to tighten tobacco laws

The Ministry of Health is updating the Tobacco Control Act to regulate nicotine products like e-cigarettes and pouches due to their popularity among Kenyan youth. The revisions aim to strengthen regulations and address gaps to protect public health. Dr. George Githuka highlighted the need to anticipate future tobacco products and enhance collaboration with partners. The WHO warns of the harmful impacts of tobacco on health and socio-economic well-being. The updates will also restructure the compensation fund. The current law mandates funding for tobacco control programs, which has not been implemented.

January 24, 2024 by

How British American Tobacco Blackmailed Kenyan Government To Weaken Health Warnings On Nicotine Pouches

An investigation by The Guardian has uncovered British American Tobacco (BAT) pressured Kenya to reduce health warnings on Lyft nicotine pouches, threatening investment withdrawal. BAT threatened it would pull investment from a Nairobi factory if its request for smaller labelling was not met.

October 11, 2023 by

Kenya Wants to Ban BAT Nicotine Pouches

Kenyan legislators are urging the government to ban the sale of BAT’s nicotine pouches Velo and Lyft, reports 2Firsts. The Kenyan Tobacco Control Act (KTCA) states that all packaging of nicotine pouches and tobacco products must contain warnings in English and Kiswahili. Sabina Chege, Member of Parliament, showed two boxes of Velo nicotine pouches, which only displayed a reminder that Velo contains nicotine, which can be addictive. The argument by experts is that nicotine also poses serious health risks.

August 29, 2023 by

Don’t Deny Smokers Their Best Chance Of Dodging Diseases

World Lung Cancer Day on August 1 served as a stark reminder of the devastating impact that lung cancer has on millions of lives worldwide. It was a day to reinforce the global resolve to combat this formidable disease, but it also exposed a troubling paradox. Just as efforts were being made to raise awareness and find solutions to combat lung cancer, some misguided activists in Kenya were using the moment to advocate for tighter restrictions on nicotine products that offer smokers their best chance of avoiding the disease.

July 20, 2023 by

The power of information: embrace science for a healthier future

Now misinformation about alternative nicotine products, such as vapes and nicotine pouches, also threatens to result in unnecessary premature deaths. Fortunately, by acknowledging the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows the lifesaving potential of these products, we can make informed decisions to shape a healthier future for those adults who wish to quit smoking. Much of the misperception problem in Kenya lies in conflating tobacco and nicotine. Far too many people regard them as one and the same. Yet reputable scientists widely acknowledge that most of the harm associated with conventional cigarettes is caused by the toxicants in the smoke produced by the burning of tobacco. [...]

April 12, 2023 by

BAT ties production of nicotine pouches to lower taxes

BAT Kenya has pegged local production at its Sh1.5 billion oral nicotine pouches factory on “less stringent” regulatory and taxation framework for the new category products.

Managing director Crispin Achola says an investment of a further Sh1 billion for testing of the plant, marketing and distribution of the nicotine pouches depends on authorities providing a facilitative environment.

BAT Kenya imports the non-combustible nicotine products, under ‘Velo’ brand, from other countries, particularly South Africa, despite putting up the factory in Nairobi.

August 31, 2022 by

BAT reverses ban to relaunch nicotine pouches in Kenya

In less than 24 months, nicotine pouches are back on the Kenyan market after British American Tobacco (BAT), the biggest manufacturer in Kenya, lobbied government authorities for their reintroduction. Meanwhile, the tobacco manufacturer continues to push for the opening of its $2.5m nicotine manufacturing plant in Nairobi.

Confidential documents seen by The Africa Report show that BAT Kenya Plc imported ten tonnes of Velo – the new name for the nicotine pouches in Kenya, and the name given to the product in other countries – from South Africa in July 2022, and has already ordered additional supplies, which are expected to arrive in the country by the end of August.


May 31, 2022 by

Without Nicotine Alternatives, Kenya’s Tobacco Industry Is Growing

This World No Tobacco Day, Kenya appears to be further than ever from reducing cigarette sales and smoking. Its decision not to have any smoking reduction plan or policy since 2015, is proving to be good news for the smoking industry. For, without it, the government’s cocktail of ignoring nicotine replacement therapies and banning tobacco alternatives is leading to a surge in cigarette sales, according to global market researchers, in an unexpected windfall for the country’s cigarette producers.

May 27, 2022 by

Use of alternative nicotine is one way of harm reduction

Proposed new taxes on e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products have attracted significant attention since their announcement in the national Budget speech.

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani’s commitment to protect the health of citizens is to be commended. But there is concern among many in the public health community that his proposals to make tobacco harm reduction products less affordable will negatively affect efforts to cut Kenya’s stubbornly high smoking rates. Harm reduction is a concept that is widely accepted in the treatment of drug addiction, yet seems to receive less support in our country when applied to the treatment of smokers.